Did you ever wonder where line makers come up with some of their numbers?
It takes a lot of work to make good lines. Stats, public perception, injuries and situations need to be balanced and factored together when it comes to making sides and totals.
A unique aspect of baseball line making is that totals need to be calculated with the various parks in mind. This is tied into basic stats, of course, but all baseball parks have different dimensions and oddities. Yankee Stadium, for example, happens to have a short porch in right field, built back in 1923 to aid lefty slugger Babe Ruth. Over the years, New York has often looked to stockpile good left-handed batters, which gives them an edge at home.
Dodger and Shea Stadium, Oakland’s Alameda County Coliseum, along with newer parks in Seattle, Florida, San Diego and Atlanta, have a reputation for being large, pitcher-friendly parks.
A series of recent parks with smaller dimensions (Milwaukee, Houston, Texas, Cleveland and Baltimore) have been built to favor hitting. You can see by the stats that the Ballpark at Arlington (Texas) and Coors Field (Colorado) are venues tough to pitch in. This doesn’t mean that the Rangers and Rockies have great hitting and lousy pitching.
The Rangers happen to have a small, hitter-friendly park. The thin air in Denver, which allows the baseball to travel farther than normal stadiums, affects Coors Field. The conditions also limit the amount of break on curveballs and sliders, making it more difficult on pitchers. Many Coors Field games finish with a total around 13 or 14.
Not all the numbers fit neatly into the dimensions of the park. The Expos have the lowest scoring games at home this season due to very strong pitching and a dreadful offense. That situation was caused in large part from the exodus of slugger Vladimir Guerrero, dealt to Anaheim in the offseason.
Petco Park in San Diego is one of the lowest scoring stadiums in baseball. This has to do with the stadium’s physical dimensions. The Padres are talking about moving the fences in next season to make it a bit more conducive to offense. San Diego’s offense is averaging 3.6 runs per game at home and 5.3 on the road.
Another trick for linemakers and bettors is to juggle what the number might be when a great pitching team such as Los Angeles travels to a hitter-friendly park like Colorado. The number can also swing when a weak hitting team like Montreal travels to Houston.
Many times in baseball, teams can win more at home than on the road. Over the course of 81 home games, players learn the dimensions of their home field and use that knowledge to their advantage. This season the Rockies started 15-16 at home (nothing to boast about) but were a ridiculous 8-25 on the road!
The young Indians have been able to carve a 21-15 start at home, but have gone 10-17 away from Jacobs Field. The A’s started 23-10 at home, while going 14-16 on the road. The surprising Reds enjoy their relatively new home field (20-10) but away from All-American Ballpark are 16-19.
In 2004, Lou Piniella’s Devil Rays have learned how to score runs at home (4.8 per game) but just 3.5 away from Tropicana Field. This explains why Tampa Bay is a respectable 19-15 at home, but a poor 9-19 on the road.